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Number of paramedics leaving NHS almost doubles since 2011

The number of paramedics leaving the NHS each year has nearly doubled since 2011, according to figures from ambulance trusts.

The data highlights that at least 1,015 paramedics left their job in 2013-2014, compared with 593 in 2011-2012. Senior staff say this is putting increased pressure on the remaining paramedics to meet demand.

London has seen the largest increase in paramedics leaving with 223 departing in 2013-2014, four times the number that left two years previously.

According to an internal document from London Ambulance Service seen by the BBC, morale is low among paramedics. It says that three-quarters of those surveyed had considered leaving the service in the past 12 months.

It is more than a London problem, however. A paramedic with Yorkshire Ambulance Service who declined to be named told NHE that job volume has increased dramatically to the point where it is not uncommon for ambulance service management to suspend meal breaks on shifts. This means that ambulance staff don’t get unpaid meal breaks and have to work through an entire shift without a rest period to help clear the backlog of emergency calls.

The source said: “Abuse towards us is much more common. Last shift I was verbally abused as a matter of course on my jobs. I had someone try to smash my window and start on me. Physical assaults are much more common.

“Paramedics are working harder, expected to do much more clinically like referring patients on to other health care professionals in a move to avoid clogging A&E with patients who don't need to be there. This is work is along the line of GP work, but we do not get any extra training or pay. In fact in real terms we are paid less due to below inflation pay rises, hence the strike next week.

“Management are increasingly quick to discipline staff. Morale is at an all-time low. Increasingly paramedics are expected to attend every job as the second member of an ambulance crew is only qualified to drive. We are not given the correct equipment as it is too expensive and are expected to just make do with what we've got.”

According to Richard Webber, spokesperson for the College of Paramedics and a paramedic himself, the reason paramedics are leaving the ambulance service is not just because of increased pressure and workload, but also because there are many more opportunities available to them now.

“In addition to the pressures of the work there are also more opportunities available for paramedics than there were previously. For example, the NHS 111 service is now recruiting paramedics where they wouldn’t previously and GP surgeries are also recruiting paramedics with advanced qualifications to work in the same role as practice nurses.

“The number of people registered as paramedics has actually increased but they’re going elsewhere where there are better opportunities.”

One of the opportunities that many paramedics are leaving the ambulance service for is to work as a disability assessor for Capita who carry out the controversial Personal Independence Payment assessments for the Department of Work and Pensions.

A job advert available online shows that Capita are actively trying to attract paramedics and other registered healthcare professionals to perform these assessments. The role offers regular hours, a salary that starts at the top end of a paramedic salary on the NHS and only requires two years practical experience.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "People rely on ambulances in life and death situations and it is crucial that crews feel supported in this highly stressful role.

"We are providing extra support to the NHS — including £28m for ambulances - to keep services sustainable year-round and since 2010, the NHS has recruited 16% more paramedics and we continue to recruit more. In the long-term, we want to reduce demand on ambulance services by looking after people better in the community.”

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Andrew Currie   14/01/2015 at 19:23

This is very disturbing; not only are we losing valuable experienced paramedics but there is a danger that they will lose the respect of the public if they work for Capita; instead of serving the public they will be party to the abuse of the ill and disabled by their involvement in the corrupt practices of the DWP and their contractors.

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